USCCB General Assembly Talks: November 16

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Archbishop José H. Gomez, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

General Assembly Talks
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles © Vatican News

Following are the talks presented on November 16 at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Fall General Assembly in Baltimore.


Address Of His Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio To The United States,

To The General Assembly Of

The United States Conference Of Catholic Bishops Baltimore, Maryland

November 16, 2021

 My Dear Friends in Christ,

I am delighted to be with you in person here in Baltimore as we gather for this plenary session of the episcopal conference. I thank His Excellency Archbishop José Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles and President of the USCCB, Father Fuller, and the entire conference staff, for their invitation to speak to you.

It is hard to believe that it has been five years since I began my mission in this country. Together during these years, we have had to confront the challenges to the family, religious disaffiliation, the sexual abuse crisis, increasing secularization, polarization within the nation and the Church, and a global pandemic! What a journey! Throughout this spiritual journey, we have been on the road together, along with our people. Amid various crises, there have also been moments of joy.

Today, I would like to speak to you about synodality, and the need for apostolic discernment. What is synodality? The Greek word synodos means “to be on the journey together.”

What synodality is not

Initially, I must say what synodality is not. Holding a synod on synodality is not simply having a “meeting about meetings.” We call that purgatory! It is also not an abstract concept – the mere idea of having a meeting about meetings. If that were the case, we would certainly be in one of the lower rings of hell in Dante’s Inferno! Realities are greater than ideas (cf. EG, 231). Synodality helps address the reality of our present situation.

The Holy Father also clearly stated in his book Let Us Dream that synodality does not involve changing “traditional truths of Christian doctrine”; rather, it is concerned with “how teaching can be lived and applied in the changing contexts of our times.” (POPE FRANCIS, LET US DREAM, NEW YORK: SIMON AND SCHUSTER, 84-85). There is a difference between true and false reform in the Church, but true reform, while necessarily remaining faithful to the living Tradition of the Church, must also involve concrete gestures, which include the participation of the whole Church as Congar pointed out in his True and False Reform in the Church, writing, “reforms undertaken uniquely from on high, without widespread participation of those at the bottom (on the periphery and at the popular level), have little effectiveness.”

Further, Pope Francis has affirmed that synodality is not to be understood as “a kind of parliament underpinned by a ‘political battle’ in which in order to govern one side must defeat the other.” (IBID., 86) It is understandable that many are hesitant about the synod because we are not used to participating in synodal processes. The conversion, especially in our mentality, that the process brings about can leave us “vulnerable” but in a better place.

Why discuss synodality?

I believe that synodality is an answer to the challenges of our time and to the confrontation, which is threatening to divide this country, and which also has its echoes in the Church. It seems that many are unaware they are engaged in this confrontation, staking out positions, rooted in certain truths but which are isolated in the world of ideas and not applied to the reality of the lived faith experience of the People of God in their concrete situations.

Pope Francis, in his homily for the Day of the Poor, last Sunday, affirmed: “We are part of a history marked by tribulation, violence, suffering, and injustice, ever awaiting a liberation that never seems to arrive. Those who are most wounded, oppressed, and even crushed, are the poor, the weakest links in the chain” (Homily for the 5th World Day of the Poor, November 14th, 2021).

There are a number of pressing issues facing the Church today. One is the pro-life issue. The Church must be unapologetically pro-life. We cannot abandon our defense of innocent human life or the vulnerable person. Yet, a synodal approach to the question would be to understand better why people seek to end pregnancies; what are the root causes of choices against life and what are the factors that make those choices so complicated for some; and, to begin to form a consensus with concrete strategies to build the culture of life and the civilization of love.

The initiative Walking with Moms in Need is actually a synodal approach. It seeks to walk with women; to better understand their situations; to work with pro-life and social service agencies to meet the concrete needs of expectant mothers and their children. Many expectant mothers are often suffering from loneliness, and common events, such as baby showers, are not part of their reality. Parishes, by listening to what some of the spiritual, social, and emotional needs of the people are, can accompany women – even with small acts of kindness. Concrete gestures, not mere ideas, show forth the maternal, tender face of the Church that is truly pro-life.

Realities are more important than ideas. We can have all the theological ideas about the Eucharist – and, of course, we need this – but none of these ideas compare with the reality of the Eucharistic Mystery, which needs to be discovered and rediscovered through the practical experience of the Church, living in communion, particularly in this time of pandemic. We can become so concentrated upon the sacrality of forms of the liturgy that we miss the true encounter with His Real Presence. There is the temptation to treat the Eucharist as something to be offered to the privileged few rather than to seek to walk with those whose theology or discipleship is falling short, assisting them to understand and appreciate the gift of the Eucharist and helping them to overcome their difficulties. Rather than remaining trapped in an “ideology of the sacred”, synodality is a method that helps us to discover together a way forward.

The same could be said with respect to race relations. Everyone here certainly condemns racial injustice. But is it merely the idea of racism that is wrong? How tangibly as Church could we respond to the lived reality of what some members of society must daily confront? This leads us back to a question that I posed at the conclusion of the June assembly: What type of Church are we?

Even last November, we reflected upon the need to be a Samaritan Church and asked: “What will our proposal be for healing the world?” However, it is not just the world that needs healing. The Church too is wounded – by the abuse crisis, the lingering effects of the pandemic, and the polarization afflicting society. This is the reality that must be engaged.

In his reflection at the opening of this new Synod on the subject of Communion, Participation, and Mission, the Holy Father stated:

“Communion and mission risk remaining somewhat abstract terms if an ecclesial praxis is not cultivated which expresses the concreteness of synodality in every step of the journey and of work, promoting the real involvement of each and every one.” (POPE FRANCIS, ADDRESS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SYNODAL PATH, 9 OCTOBER 2021)

The Church needs concrete action, involving everyone, action which mediates the presence of Christ in the human reality of our hurting world. In my mind, the way this concrete action is actuated is through synodality.

What is synodality?

Synodality is a way of life. Synodality is a way of living the faith in a permanent way at every level: in your dioceses, parishes, the family, and at the peripheries. All Church members are to be engaged in this way of living to support the mission of evangelization. Cardinal Mario Grech adds that “synodality is not only a methodos but an odos, not only a method but a way towards a re-thinking of the Church’s role in contemporary society.” (CARDINAL MARIO GRECH, “TOWARDS A SYNODAL IRISH CHURCH. ADDRESS TO THE BISHOPS OF IRELAND, 3 FEBRUARY 2021)

Six years ago, Pope Francis told us that it is “precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.” (ADDRESS DURING THE CEREMONY COMMEMORATING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE INSTITUTION OF THE SYNOD OF

BISHOPS, OCTOBER 17, 2015) Echoing Pope Benedict XVI that synodality was a “constitutive element of the Church,” he described it as “nothing other than the ‘journeying together’ of God’s flock along the paths of history towards the encounter with Christ the Lord.”

Synodality involves listening. A synodal church is one that listens and “which realizes that listening is more than simply hearing.” A Church that listens and is close, reflects God’s own “style” of “closeness, compassion and tender love”. It is sometimes said that there is a lot of confusion about doctrine in the Church today. However, the argument continues that what is needed is clear teaching. That is true, but the Holy Father says, “A Church that teaches must be firstly a Church that listens.” (cf. LET US DREAM, 84)

What type of Church do we want to be? We can begin by being a Church that listens. This listening involves not only listening to each other, but also to the Spirit to know what “he says to the churches.” (Rev 2:7) This emphasis on the Spirit is a distinctive element of the Pope’s vision of synodality, as we live epochal change.

Jesuit Father Hans Kolvenbach commented that amid change, there is a need for fidelity – to Christ, the Church, the world, and humanity. Still, he spoke of the need for creativity – not with the truth of the Faith – but in the sense of adaptation to meet the demands of our times. Ignatius of Loyola was never content with the status quo. Perhaps, this is why the Holy Father cites Mahler, stating, “Fidelity to tradition does not consist in worshipping ashes but in keeping a fire burning.” (POPE FRANCIS, ADDRESS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SYNODAL PATH, 9 OCTOBER 2021)

This means openness to deeper conversion to Christ. The first work of the Holy Spirit is conversion. In Let Us Dream, Pope Francis says:

“What characterizes a synodal path is the role of the Holy Spirit. We listen, we discuss in groups, but, above all, we pay attention to what the Spirit has to say to us. That is why I ask everyone to speak frankly and to listen carefully to others, because there, too, the Spirit is speaking. Open to changes and new possibilities, the Synod is for everyone an experience of conversion.” (POPE FRANCIS, LET US DREAM, NEW YORK: SIMON AND SCHUSTER, 85)

Experience teaches us that this synodal listening is effective. I think back to Aparecida. All the bishops understood that there was a crisis in transmitting the faith. Each had his own ideas and agenda which he hoped would be accepted or even imposed upon others. It was only by listening to each other and to the Spirit that they were able to set aside their preconceived notions about how things ought to be and together discover the path forward and to produce a powerful, new pastoral roadmap for the Church, allowing the Church to receive great gifts of clarity, vision, courage, pastoral closeness and evangelizing zeal — the kind of parrhesia which was seen in the apostles following Pentecost.

The Second Vatican Council is another example of how listening to the Spirit can bear fruit. The pre-conciliar schema was abandoned for something new, and, I would argue, something better for meeting the challenges and signs of the times. While embarking on a new path involves “growing pains”, remaining in a previous mode of thinking would never have addressed the cultural shifts of that time.

It is true that the path forward is not always immediately clear; patience and discernment are necessary. Still, the path forward necessarily involves unity. A divided Church will never be able to lead others to the deeper unity desired by Christ. This is why communion is an integral to the upcoming synod.

Some may ask, “Well, if the path isn’t immediately clear, isn’t there a danger that we will stray from the right path?” One can see the difficulties that could emerge from inauthentic versions of the “synodal path” that veer into dangerous territory, descending into political or ideological issues without listening to the Spirit. The synodal path must be rooted in Tradition. It is important to recall that the local church journeys with the bishop, who serves as the guarantor of the Truth in the process, and who himself journeys in communion with the Pope. The diocesan Bishop walks and decides cum Petro et sub Petro.

It will be argued that we are walking together but are wandering aimlessly. We are walking toward the heavenly Jerusalem, but along the journey, we hope to encounter Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the Truth. Not every opinion is equal, nor is the synodal path a purely democratic process as if truths were determined by majority vote. No. There is revealed truth, but we must listen respectfully to understand where the other person is coming from. Sometimes, we will not immediately reach agreement or see a path forward; nevertheless, with time, the Spirit can lead us to see things differently and to move forward.

Synodality is God-driven. When I addressed you in June, I spoke of the need for listening and dialogue. I offered four dimensions of dialogue from Ut Unum Sint: the dialogue of charity, conversion, truth, and salvation. Our dialogue and our listening must involve, not only talking among ourselves – bishops, clergy, religious, and laity – but also listening to God – listening to what the Spirit has to say.

It is the Spirit who preserves the Church in matters of faith and morals. An authentic synodal process ultimately is driven by God. As we listen to God and to one another, we learn. The Church needs this attentive listening now more than ever if she is to overcome the polarization afflicting this country. The Holy Father says:

“We need respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas. The aim is not to reach agreement by means of a contest between opposing positions, but to journey together to seek God’s will, allowing differences to harmonize. Most important is the synodal spirit: to meet each other with respect and trust, to believe in our shared unity, and to receive the new thing that the Spirit wishes to reveal to us.” (POPE FRANCIS, LET US DREAM, 93)

The mission of Christ toward humanity was Spirit-driven. Jesus’ public mission began with His baptism, when the Spirit descended over Him. This same Spirit, which was poured out on the Apostles at Pentecost, has been poured into our hearts in baptism and again at our priestly and episcopal ordinations. Listening to the Spirit, we are transformed as disciples.

It is not only we who are transformed by this Spirit but also our people. If we want our people to be missionary disciples, then we must set the example in leading them in the art of listening and discernment, but also consulting with them, especially when they have specific expertise. Involving them in this discernment helps them to share more deeply in the life of the Church and to accept “co-responsibility” for the Church, which we, as bishops, are called to shepherd.

Synodality is Mission-Driven. The model for this missionary discipleship is the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Holy Spirit, who is at the core of this ecclesial “walking together”, overshadowed her. Although the Spirit was operating from the dawn of creation, in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4), a qualitative leap was made in salvation history. By the Holy Spirit, Mary conceived the Word of God, who in turn was given as a gift to humanity. Mary and the Spirit “journey together” from the Annunciation through Pentecost.

If in the economy of salvation, the Holy Spirit represents the condition of possibility for the self-communication of God in Jesus on the part of the Divine, Mary, with her fiat, represents the condition of possibility of this communication on the part of humanity. Through her attentive listening and openness to God, she fulfilled her mission in bringing Christ to the world.

She journeyed with and in the Trinity, willingly receiving the love of the Father, bearing the Son within her womb, and becoming a temple of the Holy Spirit. As an icon of synodal life, Mary reminds us of the importance of listening attentively to God. She was able to say Yes to God without having all the definitive answers, and gradually, she discovered the way.

What happens when we listen attentively to God, particularly when there is a disagreement or a seeming impasse? Usually, there is a breakthrough or what the Holy Father calls an “overflow” – an overflow of the Spirit which “breaks the banks that confined our thinking and causes to pour forth, as if from an overflowing fountain, the answers that formerly the contraposition did not allow us to see.” (POPE FRANCIS, LET US DREAM, 80)

Just as Jesus began his public ministry in the power of the Spirit, so too does the Church carry out her mission, having listened to the Spirit. Synodality is mission-driven. It is not about campaigning, persuading, or doubling our efforts to do this or that. Thankfully, it is not about more programs; it is about humbly listening, to each other and to the Spirit, and to be open to what the Spirit has in store for us.

The task remains to discern carefully what is truly from God so that the Church might better embody the truth of God she proclaims.

Synodality demands Apostolic Discernment in Common. Pope Francis has invited us to enter into a resolute process of discernment and reform so that the missionary impulse of the Church might be more focused, generous, and fruitful, adding that the important thing is “to not walk alone, but to rely on each other as brothers and sisters, and especially under the leadership of the bishops, in a wise and realistic pastoral discernment.” (EG, 30; 33)

Apostolic discernment in common is a process of searching for the will of God in which the apostolic group becomes the subject of an act of discernment. It is apostolic inasmuch as the discernment process is geared toward the service of the people through the proclamation of the Gospel. Three phrases that help understand discernment are: to recognize; to interpret; and to choose, which have also been described as to see, to judge, and to act.

To recognize. Individuals, parishes, and dioceses must confront situations and difficulties in life; they need to be able to recognize and name these difficulties. At the same time, they also must possess a sense of self-awareness. While many people are well-educated in the sciences, often they are illiterate when it comes to affectivity and spirituality. There is a serious need to form people and communities in listening to and recognizing the interior movements of the Spirit and to have an honest assessment of one’s own identity.

There must be a recognition of those movements of the Spirit which bring joy and which last and those that do not. As Monsignor Luigi Giussani frequently said, “reality has never betrayed me.” Discernment is never abstract. We need to grasp the human reality and to be realistic about the present conditions of our mission.

To interpret. Individuals, parishes, and dioceses must not only recognize challenges but also learn to interpret and judge experiences in light of faith, trying to grasp the meaning of things and to evaluate them in light of the hierarchy of truths. Discernment requires not just looking at data but rightly interpreting it in the Spirit, who also reveals “blockages that are preventing us from taking advantage of the grace of God that is already being offered to us.” (POPE FRANCIS, LET US DREAM, 90)

The process of deliberation is critical. Bishops and priests, having listened to the Spirit and the lay faithful, will need to weigh the pros and cons, when making proposals about how best to evangelize. Synodality is exercised in the local church, in which priests and laity are called to “cooperate with the bishop for the good of the whole ecclesial community.” (POPE FRANCIS, “ADDRESS ON THE OCCASION OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE INSTITUTION OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS,” AAS 107: 1142.) Involving the laity is not an abdication of authority but an invitation to shared responsibility.

By undertaking a synodal process, we develop a mindset essential to common apostolic discernment: listening and engaging reality. We must be prayerful and without self-deception in our experience of consolation and desolation. What brings abiding joy as opposed to a fleeting pleasure or a pyrrhic victory? Where do I (we) experience the abiding presence of God in our discernment?

Apostolic discernment in common demands integration. How do we integrate our insights with those of the community or our brother bishops? Through others, we might more clearly, if not perfectly, discover the will of God, which ecclesial authority and abiding consolation will confirm if we have properly discerned.

To choose. Discernment demands choosing and taking concrete action. Bishops have a personal and specific responsibility to witness to the truth and to preserve the unity and integrity of the faith. After listening, praying, and carefully deliberating, bishops must make decisions. This choosing is never an assertion of power but remains a service to the Church. Ultimately, discernment is of a communitarian nature and an expression of the co-responsibility that believers have.

This choosing demands patience, which “does not come easily to our impatient age.” The Holy Father encourages us:

“Discerning in the midst of conflict requires us sometimes to pitch camp together, waiting for the skies to clear. Time belongs to the Lord. Trusting in Him, we move forward with courage, building unity through discernment, to discover and implement God’s dream for us, and the paths of action ahead.” (POPE FRANCIS, LET US DREAM, 94)

My Brothers, we have been on the road together for more than five years, and we have pitched camp more than once, but with the help of the Holy Spirit and accompanied by Christ the Good Shepherd, we will discover patiently the path of true unity – the way that leads to the Father. Listening to one another and to the Spirit and walking with our brothers and sisters, we will emerge from the present crises together as the Church Christ has called us to be!


Presidential Address

Most Reverend José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles

President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Baltimore, Maryland

November 16, 2021

 Dear brothers,

I want to personally thank Archbishop Pierre, our Apostolic Nuncio, for his remarks, and for his wise leadership as ow Holy Father’s representative to this country.

Brothers, this morning, I want to offer some thoughts of my own about our moment and our mission.

I have been reading American Church history, looking to our past, and trying to discern the word that God might be speaking to his Church in our moment.

And I want to share a remarkable speech that I found by one of ow distinguished predecessors, Archbishop John Ireland of St. Paul, Minnesota. As a young priest during the Civil War, he served as a chaplain in the Union Army. Throughout his ministry, he was a powerful advocate for African Americans, and for the rights of immigrants.

Archbishop Ireland believed deeply in what Reverend Martin Luther King and others have called the “American creed” — the belief expressed in our founding documents, that all men and women are created equal and endowed with sacred dignity, a transcendent destiny, and rights that must never be denied.

In 1889, Archbishop Ireland gave an address called “The Mission of Catholics in America.” He said, and I am quoting here:

“The next century of the life of the Church in America will be what we make it. … As we will it, so shall the story be. … There is so much at stake for God and souls, for Church and country! There is so much dependency upon our cooperation with the divine action in the world. The duty of the moment is to understand our responsibility and to do the full work that heaven has allotted to us With us it will be done, without us, it will not be done.”

Brothers, two things Strike me about this address.

First, Archbishop Ireland teaches that every Catholic shares responsibility for the Church’s mission. Bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians, religious and consecrated, laymen and laywomen — we are all baptized to be missionaries.

Second, he understood that the Church’s purpose does not depend on forces outside the Church. It does not change with the culture, or politics, or the spirit of the age.

The Church’s mission is the same in every time and place. It is to proclaim Jesus Christ and to help every person to find him and to walk with him.

I know each one of us feels that same urgency that Archbishop Ireland felt more than a century ago. We realize that God is calling us to bring souls to Christ and build his Kingdom; to infuse ow culture and society with the values of the Gospel.

The challenge we have is to understand how the Church should carry out her mission in an America that is now highly secularized.

That’s the reality. The question is: what can we do about it.

What is the best way to help our people to live and work and minister as Catholics in this moment? How can we help our people to raise their children and engage with their neighbors and culture? As a Church, how should we evangelize and go about the task of striving for justice and the renewal of ow society?

Many of the differences that we see in the Church these days are rooted in the different points of view that we have over how the Church should answer these basic questions.

Coming out of this pandemic, we can point to any number of challenging signs. But there are also many signs of hope. New opportunities are opening up for the Gospel!

There is a spiritual awakening going on in America, underneath all the clouds of the pandemic, all the uncertainty about where our country is heading. People are starting to examine what they truly believe and what they value most deeply in their lives.

There is a reason for this. It is because we are living in a moment when American society seems to be losing its “story.”

For most of our history, the story that gave meaning to our lives was rooted in a biblical worldview and the values of our Judeo-Christian heritage.

It was the story of the human person created in God’s image and invested with an earthly vocation to build a society where people could live in freedom, with equality and dignity.

This story underwrote America’s founding documents. It shaped the assumptions of our laws and institutions, it gave substance to our everyday ideals and actions.

What we see all around us now, are signs that this narrative may be breaking down. This is one of the consequences of living in a secular society. We all need God to help us to make sense of our lives, so when we try to live without God, we can become confused.

Many of our neighbors are searching. They are looking for a new story to give meaning to their lives to tell them what they are living for and why.

But my brothers, our neighbors do not need a new story. What they need is to hear the true story — the beautiful story of Christ’s love for us, his dying and rising from the dead for us, and the hope he brings to our lives.

Archbishop Ireland talked about “the duty of the moment.” ! believe the duty of our moment is this beautiful responsibility that we have to tell the Christian story once again to the people of our times.

With all the disruptions of the pandemic, all the social unrest of these past two years, people can now see very clearly that a world without God cannot bring them happiness and meaning.

Our brothers and sisters are searching for God, and they are willing to let themselves be found by God. I believe they are ready to listen once again to the Word of truth and the Word of life. I link there are also people in our society —those who grew up without religion —who are ready to hear the Word for the very first time.

From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has been calling the Church to return to her original missionary identity. We remember his exciting words from The Joy of the Gospel. “I dream of a ’missionary option’… a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything!” 

Again and again, the Holy Father reminds us: the Church exists to evangelize. There is no other reason for the Chwch. To be a Christian is to be a missionary disciple. There is no other definition.

The Church’s position in society has changed. We cannot count on numbers or our influence in society. None of that ever really mattered anyway. We are here to save souls. And Jesus promised us that if we seek his Kingdom first, everything we need will be given to us.

This is why the initiatives we are undertaking as a Conference of Bishops are absolutely vital. Especially our document on the Eucharistic mystery, and our pastoral plan for a Eucharistic revival.

We are all aware that salvation does not come through another Church document or program. We are only saved through the personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

But the Eucharistic revival is a missionary project. It aims to draw our people deeper into the heart of the mystery of faith, to awaken what Pope St. John Paul II called “Eucharistic amazement.”

 Brothers, as we know, the Eucharist is deeply personal. It is our intimate encounter with the living God who comes to be our food, to be our s4ength in the journey of life.

I know in my life, everything started to change, my faith really began to grow deeper, after I made the decision as a teenager to try to attend daily Mass. Maybe you have your own experiences.

As we accompany our people during this Eucharistic revival, I hope we can share our personal stories of how we discovered the friendship of Jesus and the love of God in this beautiful sacrament.

Finally, I would like to say: the Eucharist is also the gateway key to the civilization of love that we long to create. Jesus promised that he would be truly present in the sacrament of the altar —but also in the flesh and blood of our neighbors, especially those who are poor and suffering.

If we ever hope to end human indifference and social injustice, then we need to revive this sacramental awareness. In every human person we meet — from the infant in the womb to our elderly parents drawing their dying breaths — we must see the image of the living God.

Brothers, our beautiful task is to continue to tell the Catholic story, to reveal Jesus to our people to place leir hands in his hand so they can walk by his light and follow him on the path to eternity, to the love that never ends.

As Archbishop Ireland said more than a century ago, there is so much at stake in our mission, for God and souls, for Church and country. “As we will it, so shall the story be.”

In just a few weeks, we will celebrate the 490th anniversary of the Virgin Mary’s apparition to St. Juan Diego, which is the true founding of America.

So let us look to Our Lady of Guadalupe in this moment and entrust all our challenges to her maternal heart.

Brothers, thank you for listening, and may God bless you and your diocese.

‘ “The Mission of Catholics in America,” (November 10, 1889), in Fñe Church and Modei’n Sociofv, 2 vols. (St. Paul, 1904-1905), 1:90.

Evttn L•elii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Apostolic Exhortation on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World (November 24, 2013), 27.

“!’‘ Ecclesia de Euckaristla (The Church and the Eucharist), Encyclical Letter (April 17, 2003), 5.



His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America


US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ General Assembly

Baltimore, MD, November 16, 2021

Your Eminences,

Your Excellences,

Dear Fathers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I greet you with a salutation of hope and peace in our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. I would like to share my heartfelt joy to be with you today, my brother bishops of the USCCB, for the first time in the history of our Sister Churches’ relation in this country; I am very grateful to His Excellency, the Most Reverend José H. Gomez Archbishop of Los Angeles, USCCB President, for his fraternal invitation to offer my humble remarks at the end of this session, but also to His Excellency to the Most Reverend David Talley Bishop of Memphis, Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, for facilitating our presence tonight.

As you are well aware, a few weeks ago we had the honor and blessing to welcome His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for a historic visit to this country during which he met some of you either in Washington, DC, or in New York City. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you again for your warm and ecumenical presence. Allow me to share with you today a quotation from the remarks offered by His All-Holiness during the Ecumenical Reception to the National Council of Churches that finds a particular echo in today’s gathering: “the future of the ecumenical movement resides in ‘the dialogue of love’ through the creation of new symbols and common actions. We need to open our hearts to the language of dialogue. This is the ultimate condition for the restoration of unity among Christians. The 20th century was a time for growing restoration of relationships. The 21st century should become the century of the restoration of unity.”

Today, I am convinced, as I present myself in front of my brother hierarchs, that this dialogue of love, initiated by Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in 1964 in Jerusalem, continues with a particular density in this blessed country.

Our dialogue of love should be fashioned by the dialogue and inspiring relationship between our primates: His Holiness Pope Francis and His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was the first Archbishop of Constantinople to attend a Pope’s enthronement in 2013. They both share the same concern for the protection of the natural environment, as expressed recently this September in the joint statement published together with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, warning the world of the urgency of environmental sustainability and its impact on poverty.

This dialogue of love between our Sister Churches is a clear manifestation of our common desire for unity and communion on both a global and local level. Thus, the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation should not be shy about its accomplishments. Since 1965 – at the happy coincidence of the reestablishment of Catholic-Orthodox relations and the Second Vatican Council – this Consultation has produced thirty-two documents, reports, and statements. Some of them became real references for theologians, and for our Churches to walk together towards unity.

These are real fruits of our collaboration which nourish both our communities. For all these decades, whether it was the Committee for Ecumenical Relations of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America – or prior to 2010, the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops have been mutual sojourners. And here, please allow me here to commend the two co-chairs of the Consultation, His Eminence Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark and His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of Boston, for their inspiring leadership.

It is also worth noting that the Consultation works hand-in-hand with the Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops, which has been meeting annually since 1981. I am happy to report that both bodies are scheduled to continue their work in May of next year at the St. Methodios Faith and Heritage Center in New Hampshire. Let me also note that the fruits of this dialogue are not restricted to theological debate.

Every year the Assembly of Bishops together with the USCCB offer the opening prayer at the March for Life. Just a few months ago, the Assembly of Bishops also signed on to an Amicus brief supporting the sanctity of life.

Dear Brothers in the Lord:

As Orthodox Christians, we are also very interested in the work and the process of the next Catholic Synod of Bishops, which is scheduled for October 2023 and which will deal with “For a Synodal Church Community: Communion, Participation and Missions.” During this two-year period, I believe that there is room for your ecumenical partners to provide input into the preparation process. This idea was recently shared by His Eminence Cardinal Kurt

Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity1.

I am convinced that the future and mission of Catholic-Orthodox relations in the U.S.A. are to continue to bear witness to God’s presence in the world, faithful to the Spirit of Jerusalem that we received as a legacy.

Ecumenical dialogue bears in itself a synodal dimension that explores the meaning and praxis of the very nature of the Church structure and mission. We know that international dialogue is already examining this issue through study of the interdependence between synodality and primacy. But perhaps, in our American context, as we dedicate our energy and time to sharing this important issue and reflecting together, it will bear fruit in due course.

I want to thank each one of you for allowing me to address this honorable body with the sincere hope there will be many more opportunities to come together as brothers. As David says it in the Psalms: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.” (Psalms 133:1)